How Ecommerce has Changed Consumer Behaviour

A woman is sitting in front of a laptop and holding a credit card to illustrate ecommerce and online shopping

Consumer behaviour have changed drastically over the last few years thanks to the explosion of ecommerce. Where shopping in a store was once the predominant way to shop, online shopping was already becoming a preferred way to shop for consumers around the globe and the trend only accelerated during the global pandemic.

Seventy-four percent of internet users in the European Union shopped online in 2021, says the survey on Information and Communication Technology. In the US, an estimated 266.7 million shoppers do so online. Advances in ecommerce are the driving factors behind this shopping evolution. Consumers no longer have to go out to go shopping. Ecommerce has brought the shopping experience to their fingertips via desktop and mobile devices, completely changing the way consumers shop. This article is an exploration of the most impactful ways that ecommerce has changed consumer shopping habits.

Mobile is Blurring the Line Between Online and Offline Shopping

The biggest impact ecommerce has had on consumer shopping habits is that consumers can shop from anywhere, anytime. They no longer have to wait until store hours to make a purchase. While the ability to research and shop online has been around for a while, mobile has taken ecommerce to the next level because shoppers can use the device at any point during the sales cycle.

By 2025, mobile commerce sales are projected to reach $728.28 billion and make up 44.2% of retail commerce sales in the US. Consumers use mobile in a variety of different ways throughout the sale cycle, notes Nels Stromborg, the North America managing director at Retale. These use cases include:

  • To discover new products
  • To locate products and compare prices
  • To create and manage shopping lists
  • To make purchases
  • To review purchases

The rise of mobile shopping has blurred the line between the physical store and the online experience. Rather than having two distinct channels, both channels can be used in conjunction to optimise the shopping experience. Though some of the legacy brick-and-mortar brands have had trouble keeping up with the growth of ecommerce, it isn’t the kiss of death to physical stores. In fact, big companies like Amazon and Alibaba have opened up brick-and-mortar locations.

The kiss of death comes when companies are not able to create a seamless experience between online and offline shopping, explains Tom Popomaronis, senior director of product innovation and business development at the Hawkins Group. The companies that have been able to make the transition have created apps, optimised their ecommerce stores, and started selling products through their social media channels.

By doing this, they have given consumers the choice of where, when, and how to shop. A shopper can purchase a product online at midnight, receive it the next day, and then return it to a physical store if unhappy with the product. That’s the power of mobile ecommerce — the ability to create a more seamless, omnichannel shopping experience. It is an experience that customers have come to expect.

Customers Expect More Personalised Experiences

A photo of four people looking at their mobile phones

The progression of ecommerce has advanced the customer expectations of the companies they buy from. So, what do customers expect? They expect a seamless shopping experience that is personalised to them — one that is consistent no matter what device they are using for their shopping or what stage of the buying process they are in. In addition, people are 40% more likely to spend more than they’d planned if their experience is personalised.

Richard Kestenbaum, partner at Triangle Capital LLC, says the challenge for retailers is they have to offer better experiences than they have in the past to motivate customers to come in or make a purchase. Companies are doing this by creating omnichannel, personalized experiences with content that “resonates, engages and delights consumers” at every stage of the buying process, says marketing consultant Andy Betts.

Take, for example, GOAT, the mobile sneaker marketplace that lets users create wish lists. Then, when those sneakers go on sale, or the price drops into the shopper’s target price range, the app sends them a push notification. The company has created a personalised experience that is driving business, as the company now has more than 7 million users worldwide.

Shopping Has Become a Social Activity

When companies like GOAT create a great shopping experience, people want to share that experience with others. Digital marketing has facilitated that sharing and turned shopping into a social activity. What’s more, consumers today rely on the opinions of others to guide their purchase decisions, and they have immediate access to those reviews. Anyone on social media can be an influencer for a brand. Social platforms and online review sites have opened the floodgates for word-of-mouth advertising via product reviews.

Today, 95% of shoppers read reviews before making a purchase. And it does not matter to consumers that these reviews are from complete strangers. They trust the reviews more than they trust what brands themselves are saying. That’s why, consumers, not brands, are more responsible now for shaping the perception of a brand, says Chris Campbell, CEO of ReviewTrackers. These online reviews have become so important that 94 percent of people have avoided a business because of a negative online review, the company’s research shows.

Retailers have recognised the power of these channels to shape shoppers’ opinions and have begun engaging with their customers on social media and online review platforms. That engagement has played a big role in facilitating customers’ desires for more information before making purchases. A side-effect of that engagement is consumers are more informed than ever before about the products they are buying and the companies they are giving their money to.

Shoppers Are Becoming Their Own Salespeople

In addition to online reviews, consumers can access product and company information that they can read and analyse before buying. These better-informed customers are changing the role of salespeople in companies. These customers’ expectations are higher, and companies are having to change their approach to meet those expectations.

Before digital media, customers relied on salespeople to guide them on their path to making the best purchase. Now customers enter stores, online and offline, armed with the information they need to make a purchase.

Shoppers Have Greater Access to Goods

Today’s consumers have access to more information, and ecommerce has given them access to products from around the world. New trade agreements and advances in ecommerce technology has opened the door for brands to sell outside their domestic markets and customers are bought in. Global cross-border sales are expected to hit more than $4 trillion by 2027.

While shoppers are willing to purchase products from outside their home country, they still have high expectations for their online shopping experiences. Cross-border shoppers expect merchant websites to appear in their native languages and accept local currency and payment methods.

The Evolution Continues

All customers have similar basic expectations when they shop. They want the products they want when they want them, and they don’t want to pay too much for them. This is why ecommerce has grown to be the preferred shopping method for consumers.

Ecommerce gives consumers access to information, the ability to shop on different devices and the option to share their experiences with others, which has completely altered their expectations and the way they shop. Customer shopping habits will continue to evolve with technology, and companies will have to continue to adapt to maintain relevance.

To stay up to date on consumer habits, brands need the latest data. Download the latest Global Voices report from ESW. We surveyed 16,000 consumers in 16 countries about everything from shopping preferences to spending intent. We analysed and compiled responses to help brands make data-driven decisions. Download the report.

Make sure your brand is properly positioned to acquire and build loyal customers. Talk to an ecommerce expert at ESW today.